By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE STAFF REPORTER
(The Center Square) — To address the state’s housing crisis, California lawmakers could consider a new proposal to make commercial sites available for affordable housing construction.
Assembly Bill 2011, unveiled Tuesday by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, would allow housing to be built in “underutilized commercial sites,” such as areas currently zoned for office, retail and parking use.
To be eligible to build on these properties, developers are required to meet certain pay and training standards, including that they must pay a “prevailing wage.” Additionally, projects involving 50 or more units would require workers to receive health benefits and contractors to participate in a state-approved apprenticeship program or request workers from a program. However, the bill includes a provision to allow the project to move forward if no apprentice workers are available.
“California’s shortages of affordable housing and our growing homelessness challenges have become a humanitarian crisis, and we have to treat them with that sense of urgency,” Assemblymember Wicks, who serves as chair of the Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development, said in a statement. “This bill combines some of the best ideas advanced in the Legislature over the last several years for promoting affordable housing development with a requirement creating ‘high road’ jobs.
“To effectively take on our state’s housing issues, I firmly believe we need to do both.”
The bill comes as lawmakers are seeking ways to alleviate the state’s housing shortage and increase the supply of affordable housing. According to the 2022 Statewide Housing Plan, California needs to plan for 2.5 million homes over the next eight years “to address decades of undersupply.” The plan estimates that about a million of those homes “must meet the needs of lower-income households.”
The state, however, is anticipated to fall behind its housing goals set in the previous housing needs cycle, which set the goal of creating 1.2 million new units by 2024. As of 2020, only about half of the units needed were added to the state’s housing supply, the housing plan states.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon voiced support for Aseemblymember Wicks’ bill, saying it “strikes the right balance” in addressing both housing needs and job opportunities.
“(AB 2011) would allow for accelerated housing production across our state, while offering high-paying jobs and health benefits for workers,” Speaker Rendon said in a statement. “I’m grateful to Assemblymember Wicks for her leadership on this important issue.”
The legislation is co-sponsored by the California Housing Consortium and the California Conference of Carpenters. The bill has been assigned to the Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development.
Madison Hirneisen covers California for The Center Square.